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About similar keywords in the same ad group

Your ads are eligible to appear when one of your keywords matches someone’s search term on Google or on search partner sites. 

But within an ad group, you might have multiple keywords that are similar or overlap in meaning, and could all match a given search term. For example, you might have the keywords plumber course and plumber training course in the same ad group, and both could match the search term training course for plumber. Only one of those keywords can trigger an ad for the search term. 

This article explains what happens when your ad group has multiple keywords that could match the same search term. You can also read more about what happens when you have similar keywords across different ad groups.

Note

Having multiple keywords that could match the same search term shouldn’t increase your costs in any way. The set of preferences detailed below determines which keyword is used to enter an ad into an auction. Once the ad enters the auction, it’s then compared with ads from other advertisers, and your cost per click is what's minimally required to hold your ad position and any ad formats shown with your ad, such as sitelinks.

How a keyword is selected

If your ad group has several keywords that could match a search term, the preferences below are used to determine which keyword is used to enter an ad into an auction. The preferences rank approximately in the order listed.

  1. A keyword that’s identical to the search term

    If you have a keyword that is identical to the search term, this keyword is preferred for triggering an ad. This is true even if there are other keywords in your ad group that are similar to the search term.

    Example

    Let's say that the search term is plumber course and your ad group includes both the broad match keyword plumber course and phrase match keyword plumber. In this example, the broad match keyword plumber course is preferred because it’s identical to the search term plumber course.

  2. An exact match keyword when the keywords are identical

    If you have multiple keywords that are the same, the exact match keyword is preferred for triggering an ad.

    Example

    If the search term is plumber, and your ad group includes both the broad match keyword plumber and exact match keyword plumber, then the exact match keyword is preferred.

  3. The keyword that has the highest Ad Rank

    When several keywords in your ad group match a search term, the keyword with the highest Ad Rank is preferred for triggering an ad.

    Example

    Let’s say you have these keywords in the same ad group.

    Keyword Ad Rank
    plumber course 1.5
    plumber certification course 1

    In this example, the keyword plumber course will be preferred because it has a higher Ad Rank.

Exception to preferences

There's a cheaper keyword with a higher Ad Rank

On rare occasions, an exception might be made to the preferences above when a keyword is both cheaper – meaning it has a lower cost-per-click (CPC) bid – and has a higher Ad Rank.

Example

Let's say that someone searches for plumber tool and your ad group includes the keywords plumber tools and plumber tool.

Keyword Maximum CPC bid Ad quality Ad Rank
plumber tools £0.10 high quality 16
plumber tool £0.15 low quality 11

Usually, the keyword plumber tool would be preferred because it’s identical to the search term plumber tool. However, plumber tools is cheaper, and has a higher quality and higher Ad Rank. Therefore, plumber tools will be preferred in this instance. Bear in mind that Ad Rank is calculated every time that your keyword matches a search term and your ad is entered into an ad auction.

One of your keywords has a low search volume status

There may be times when the preferences above don’t apply because a keyword has been given a low search volume status. This is a status given to a keyword that has very little to no search history on Google. Keywords with this status are temporarily inactive and won’t trigger ads. So, if you have a low search volume keyword, you’ll see a different keyword triggering an ad for a matching search term, even if according to the preferences above, your low-search volume keyword should have been the one to trigger the ad.
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